Paws For A Minute ® /Ask Inger
How can I get my dog to stop barking at people who come in to my house? If I have people over for dinner the two dogs eventually stop, but as soon as someone attempts to get up from the table they start barking again! -Barb
Hi there! Thanks for the great question. Barking can make many dog owners crazy and guests uneasy. Especially, two Akita’s that appear to be ruling the roost! Barking back NO at your dogs, before opening the front door is not the most elegant of ways to greet friends. So much for a happy hello, right?
Here’s the translation and meaning behind those barks and the scoop on how to solve the problem. To a degree barking is a normal communication for a dog to alert you that someone’s at the door. Kind of a built in alarm system, but how do you turn it off?
Before I answer your question, what alarms me, as a trainer, is not so much the barking at the front door, but rather the barking at your guests when they get up from the table. One type of barking is an alert ( door bell ringing) and the other ( people getting up from a table) is a warning. It’s important for dog parents to learn and understand the different meanings. When a dog barks at a sound it’s normal but when it barks at a movement it’s coming more from a territorial issue. When you add the two types of barking together, it can become troublesome for a healthy dog owner relationship. Why? Mainly because it’s YOUR house!
Psychologically the goal is for your dogs to take your cues from you in a nice pleasant way, not the other way around. It’s not really an alpha dominant “I’m in charge here,” correction. The problem and it’s solution should be understood from proactive and insightful direction with steps that make sense to both you and your dog.
The dog owner surprise to the barking solution begins with the awareness that the mixed signal that your dog is receiving is coming for YOU, not your guest. Dog’s are den animals and pack animals, this is a fido fact. Therefore, dogs need to look to owners for direction. If none is provided they will do their thing. Barking at guests who are merely getting up from the table is telling you (the dog owner) that your dogs are warning you AND your guest that they don’t trust the intruder in their house. Here’s the clincher, it’s not their house– it’s YOURS! Yes, most people think they correct the behavior by saying NO to their dogs. But they’re not stopping the main issue which is socializing their dogs to guests.
The most awesome thing you can do is to get organized and redirect your dogs prior to guests coming over. Getting truly organized means applying the leash with a language they truly learn to understand, obedience commands. This is the best way to explain to your dog that it be YOUR house. Redirecting your dog at the front door to sit and stay (on a leash, at first) builds trust and praise!
Taking sensible steps on getting the front door triggers under control by creating a new ritual will change the whole dynamic at the front door! It will also take your dogs focus off the sound of the doorbell, and movements of the guest and put it on pleasing you! It may take a bit of time in practice but eventually no steps are needed and the whole process organically moves to a happy easy greeting at the front door.
A helpful tip is to occasionally break up the pack prior to people coming over. The key here is to vary it. Often having two or more dogs creates a trigger effect where one dog triggers a bark and they end up tag teaming barks at the front door. To stop the pattern, make sure both dogs are exercised and choose to baby gate one dog in a kitchen, hallway or bedroom, WAY before your guests come over. This is not meant to be any kind of timeout or punishment. Think of it as chew bone time. Create a spa like environment with music. Use of the baby gate allows your dog to see out and WAIT. This process will help dissolve the pattern of both dogs being loose and tuning you out.
Your second dog, (who can take his turn to be loose in the house) can then be easily directed on a leash to sit, stay and learn to greet guests in a civilized manner. The great thing about using boundaries like the leash and the gate is that it separates the pack and allows you to elegantly reclaim your house and praise your dogs for waiting behind the gate and staying in the stay command on a leash. As for the barking, one shake of a penny-can will send a signal that YOU rule. The shake sound acts like a police siren when pulling you over for speeding. All of these suggestions together will help break the barking pattern and be able to emphasize the positive. Which is to praise your dog for waiting behind the gate and the other to hold a stay command at the front door.
Your guests will love you and your dogs and all can relax. Everyone will truly learn to experience a happy hello!